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Full text of "Three years of home mission work in Asheville Presbytery"


Three Years of Home Mission Work in, Asheville 
Presbytery. 



BY REV. R. F, CAMPBELL, D. D. 



When in the fall of 1896 the Synod of North Carolina 
set off a part of .the Presbytery of Mecklenburg to form 
the Presbytery of Asheville, it was not making a new 
departure. It was only taking another step in the for- 
ward policy pursued from the beginning. 

From 1770 to 1795 the Presbytery of Orange included 
the whole State of North Carolina. In the latter year, 
the Synod of the "Carolinas created a new Presbytery out 
of the counties west of the Yadkin river, giving it the 
name of Concord. 

In 18 1 2 the Presbytery of Orange was again divided 
by the setting off of the Presbytery of Fayetteville. 

A' few years later Fayetteville in turn was cut in 
twain, and the southwestern half of its territory re- 
ceived the name of Wilmington. 

In 1889 the Synod created the Presbytery of Albe- 
marle out of parts of Wilmington and Orange, thus 
making four Presbyteries east of the Yadkin. 

In the meanwhile the same process of division had 
begun west of the river. In 1869 the Synod divided the 
Presbytery of Concord, by setting off seventeen coun- 
ties to form the Presbytery of Mecklenburg. In 1896 
Mecklenburg in turn came under the knife, and, by a 
surgical operation not entirely free from pain, the eleven 
counties west of the Blue Ridge mountains were cut off 
to constitute the Presbytery of Asheville. 

Presbyterianism in North Carolina has multiplied by 
division. The old Presbytery of Orange has become 
seven ; instead of twenty-three ministers there are now 
one hundred and sixty-three ; and trie few hundred mem- 
bers have become thirty-five thousand strong. A hun- 
dred years ago a handful of Presbyterian corn was cast 
into the soil of North Carolina. The fruit thereof now 
shakes like Lebanon. 



(1) 



When in 1869 the Presbytery of Mecklenburg was 
erected, it had on its roll 23 ministers and 39 churches. 
The communicants numbered 3,376. The contributions 
to Home Missions amounted to $2,753, to Foreign Mis- 
sions $738. 

In the spring of 1896, before the erection of Ashe- 
ville Presbytery, Mecklenburg reported 41 ministers, 86 
churches, 8,746 members, $5,235 for Home Missions and 
$6,216 for Foreign Missions. This is a net gain, in 27 
years of 18 ministers, or nearly 80 per cent.; of 47 
churches, or 120 per cent.; of 5,370 communicants or 
160 per cent.; of $^,482 in annual contributions to the 
cause of Home Missions or nearly 100 per cent.; of $5,- 
478 in annual contributions to For&ign Missions, or 
nearly 800 per cent. 

The Presbytery of Mecklenburg as originally constitu- 
ted was, to borrow the parlance of gerrymandering poli- 
tics, "a shoe-string district." The extreme length of 
the territory was not far short of three hundred miles. 
Charlotte, though not the geographical centre, was in 
influence and blue blood the heart of the Presbytery. 
Church life west of the Blue Ridge, because of its dis- 
tance from the heart, was suffering from sluggish circu-. 
lation. The Synod, therefore, in the fall of 1896, created 
a new body with a heart of its own, and gave it the name 
of Asheville Presbytery. 

The new Presbytery held its opening meeting in the 
First Presbyterian Church, Asheville, Dec. 2, 1896. 

I,et us measure the growth of this infant now entering 
upon the fourth year of her life: 

1. New Organizations and Buildings. Six churches 
have been organized, an average of two a year. 

Eight buildings have been erected, two are under way 
and three will probably be begun as soon as the roads 
get dry enough for heavy hauling. 

2. Number of Communicants. The membership has 
increased from 1,000 to about 1,300, a net gain of 300 or 
30 per cent. 

During the same period of three years, the Presbyte- 
rian Church as a whole, North and South, has had a net 
gain of only about 4^2 per cent. That is, the number of 

(?) 



communicants has multiplied nearly seven times as fast 
in the Presbytery of Asheville as in the Presbyterian 
Church throughout the United States. 

3. Contributions. Two great causes are selected as 
representing the interest of the church in aggressive 
work at home and abroad. 

The contributions to Foreign Missions have increased 
from $542 to $982, a gain of 81 per cent. 

Home Missions from $923 to $2,484, a gain of 170 per 
cent. 

4. Gains that cannot be tabulated or expressed in fig- 
ures. Three years ago Hayesville, Murphy, Andrews, Bry- 
son City and Dillsboro were under one pastorate. This large 
field has been divided into two groups, and our working 
force there doubled. There was no church building either 
at Dillsboro or Andrews. Now we have two buildings 
(church and school) at Dillsboro, and one at Andrews. 
A debt of $800 on the Bryson City Church building and 
another of $75 on the Hayesville building, both of long 
standing, have been paid. 

Three years ago the church at Hendersonville was 
grouped with Mills River and Midway, and was paying 
$300 for half time of a pastor. This church is now giv- 
ing $500 on pastor's salary, and with the aid of a supple- 
ment from the Presbytery is able to have a pastor for the 
whole of his time. We may confidently expect this 
church to become self-supporting in a very few years. 

Three years ago the churches of Waynesville and 
Bethel w T ere receiving a supplement of $150 from the 
Presbytery. They are now supporting their pastor with- 
out aid, and are growing rapidly in membership and 
strength under the ministry of Rev. Frank D. Hunt. 

Barnardsviixe. About two years ago Messrs. Robt. 
V. Miller and R. A. Garrett, members of the First Church, 
Asheville, held religious services at this point, which were 
blessed to the conversion of a considerable number of 
souls. The people of the community expressed a desire 
to have the Presbyterian church begin work among them 
and in response to this invitation Rev. E. MacDavis was 
sent to minister to them. At that time there was not a 
member of the Presbyterian church in that neighborhood. 



(3) 



Now there are two church organizations with about one 
hundred members, and two church buildings in course of 
erection. A member of the First Church, Asheville, has 
given $500 for the building at Barnardsville, and the citi- 
zens of that place have donated an eligible site and $250 
in money or its equivalent. The people of Dillingham, 
three miles east of Barnardsville, on Upper Ivey River, 
are putting up the other building, the Home Mission 
Committee furnishing only hardware and paints. L,and, 
lumber, and labor have also been offered in the Barnards- 
ville field for manse and school. 

5. Administration and policy. The work is adminis- 
tered by the Presbytery through a committee of Home 
Missions, the members of which are chosen annually by 
the Presbytery upon the recommendation of a special 
committee on nominations. 

The committee is required to report to the Presbytery 
semi-annualty, and has no authority beyond that delega- 
ted to it by this body. 

The committee meets once a month in regular session, 
with special meetings at such times as the exigencies of 
the work seem to demand. The members have given 
themselves to the work with fidelity and enthusiasm, no 
one of them having ever failed to be present at a regular 
meeting unless sick or out of town. 

It is the duty of this Committee, "under the direction 
of Presbytery, to take the general oversight of feeble 
churches, especially when vacant, and of missionary 
fields in our bounds, with a view to secure for all desti^ 
tute places adequate evangelistic and pastoral laborers." 
(Manual of Asheville Presbytery, p. 10.) 

The churches receiving aid are urged to advance to the 
point of self-support as rapidly as possible, in order that 
the work may be extended into new and destitute fields. 

This is not an untried policy, but one which has been 
in vogue for many years in all the Presbyteries, and in 
the pursuance of which the Synod of North Carolina has 
made c uch rapid strides in the last fifteen years. In 1885 
there were 20,000 members of the Presbyterian Church 
in the State; there are now 35,000. This remarkable 
growth is the result of a revival of religion which began 



(4) 



in the Synod fifteen years ago and which has been going 
on ever since. 

6. The Guiding and Providing Hand of God. Mr. Spur- 
geon, in speaking of the founding of his Pastor's College, 
remarks that "it seems to be God's plan that works of 
usefulness should develop themselves in obedience to a 
living force within, rather than by scheme and plan 
from without." 

It has been so in this work. The new Presbytery 
from its very birth seems to have been carried along by a 
force that was born for it. The workers have not so 
much pushed the work as they have been pushed by it. 

And yet the work has not always been easy, and there 
have been times when the way seemed compassed with 
darkness. But the pillar of cloud has refreshed us with 
its shade under the burden and heat of the day, and the 
pillar of fire has shone upon our way when God has 
called us to march in the night. 

Again and again have we been "brought by a way we 
knew not, and led in paths that we have not known: and 
he hath made darkness light before us and crooked things 
straight. ' ' 

God's ways are past finding out, but sometimes He 
Himself condescends to reveal them, There have been 
in the Home Mission work of Asheville Presbytery many 
maiked instances of God's direct guidance and provision. 
Three examples will be gratefully recorded here: 

(i) As our work developed we reached a point where 
it seemed to the Presbytery almost necessary that we 
should have an evangelist to be the hands and the feet of 
the Home Mission Committee. The serious question 
arose, How are we to get the means for this work ? We 
could not afford to draw on the funds of our general 
treasury, for this would take the bread out of the mouths 
of our missionary pastors. At this juncture, the Presby- 
tery of Mecklenburg and two beloved elders were moved 
to come to our aid, and through their timely liberality 
we have been enabled to employ Rev. R. P. Smith for the 
whole of his time without cost to our Presbytery. In 
each case the money was given for the employment of an 
evangelist, and the gift of one of the elders was called 



(5) 



forth by his confidence in the fitness of the particular 
man whom we have chosen for this work. 

(2) Among the strategic points discovered by Rev. R. 
P. Smith and Mr. R. S. Eskridge, in their investigation 
two years ago, none surpasses the Fine's Creek region in 
Haywood county, especially for the establishment of a 
good school. One of the leading citizens of that commu- 
nity reports that in the Fine's Creek school district, which 
is six miles by eight, there are seven hundred and fifty 
children of school age. Of these only one-half are enroll- 
ed as pupils in the public schools, and only about one- 
half of those enrolled attend regularly enough to get much 
benefit, and those who attend every day get only about 
ninety days schooling in the year. The people of the 
district have from the beginning shown an eager desire 
to have us establish a school. 

Again the question of means confronted us. Now, see 
how God wrought for us ! 

Two years ago, Mr. Walter M. Smith, a Presbyterian 
elder, and a prominent merchant of New York City, was 
sent to Asheville by his physician for a season of rest. 
During his short stay he became very much interested in 
the work of the First Presbyterian Church and of the 
Presbytery of Asheville. 
# When the Home Mission Committee issued the pam- 
phlet setting forth the progress, need and prospects of 
the work, a copy was sent to Mr. Smith, as to others 
who had shown special interest in this cause. 

In a few days the chairman of the committee received 
a letter, from which the following extract is made . 

Stamford, ConN., April 6, 1899. 

My Dear Friend: — You may possibty remember that 
I spoke t0 3 7 ou of a young man, a convert of Water Street, 
whom we had sent to the Bible Institute, Chicago. He 
studied there a year, and came home last fall so full of 
love for the Word and for the Master, that I was led to 
send him back for six months longer, and then have him 
to return to Water Street as an assistant missionary. 

I visited him in January. A more thoroughly conse- 
crated man I never saw or knew. I wrote him enclosing 



(6) 



a check with which to return, and we expected him on 
April 4. My letter reached Chicago March 15, at 5.30 p. 
m. At 7. he passed away. On the 18th. we buried him 
from Water St. Mission my own pastor officiating. It 
was his thirty- fourth birthday. He was born again on 
Oct. 8, 1895, and from that moment he never lost sight 
of Christ for a second of time 

Every Lord's Day morning he preached Christ and 
him crucified to the inmates of the county jail, and 
many through his loving word were led to the foot of 
the Cross and confessed Christ. 

When I received your note last night and read your 
pamphlet, I asked the Lord if this was what he wanted 
me to do. I have my answer. 

If some poor lost one will listen to the story of this 
poor boy (brought up a thief, with no education except 
such as he could acquire by the instruction of other 
thieves), who could be saved by grace, could- master the 
Word with so much intelligence as to command the re- 
spect and love of every one with whom he came in con- 
tact ; then let this be known as a fund in memory of 
Ira B. Snyder, the converted thief of Water Street Mis- 
sion, saved by the grace of God, October 8th, 1895; died 
in Chicago, March 15th, 1899. 

Yours faithfully, 

Walter M. Smith. 

The point selected by the committee for the invest- 
ment of this sacred fund is the Fine's Creek district. In 
the early part of January Mr. Smith, accompanied by 
Mr. S. H. Hadley. the Superintendent of the Water 
Street Mission, made the long journey from New York 
to visit this field. He was much impressed by what he 
saw, and has considerably increased his original gift. 
He sent us checks at various times to help with the 
building we were erecting, and has donated a beautiful 
and sweet- toned bell to "ring out the old, ring in the 
new." We expect to put two teachers in this field next 
fall, and are planning more extensive developments in 
the near future, as God may guide. 

(3) There is only one county within the bounds of , 
our Presbytery in which there is no Presbyterian church, 



(7) 



Our evangelists reported after their prospecting tour that 
in this county there was only one completed church 
building of any denomination. Ever since their visit, 
the people of this county have been sending to us the 
Macedonian cry, "Come over and help us !" 

Again the question of ways and means confronted us, 
and again we appealed to him who has said, "The silver 
and the gold are mine." 

A member of the First Church, Asheville, has prom- 
ised us $500 for the erection of a church building, and 
the Society of Soul Winners has engaged through Dr. 
Guerrant to put into our hands $30 a month towards the 
support of a minister for the field. With this start we 
expect to begin operations there as soon as spring shall 
fairly open. 

To carry out the plan of establishing and maintaining 
both a church and a school at the county seat, we shall 
need to have these gifts supplemented by others. 

There are many other needy and promising fields 
which we might enter at once if we had the means to 
inaugurate and support the work. This is our oppor- 
tunity. Shall we let it go by ? 

While we do not desire to draw off contributions from 
other destitute regions, we earnestly appeal to those who 
feel an interest in the mountain work to aid us in giving 
the Gospel and Christian education to those who are 
calling aloud for these blessings. 

Contributions may be sent to Rev. R. F. Campbell, 
chairman of the Home Mission Committee, or to Mr. 
W. A. Blair, Treasurer, Asheville, N. C. 

We send our hearty thanks to all the kind friends who 
have helped us hitherto. 

Asheville, N. C, March 15th, 1900.